Wednesday, 30 September 2009


I didn't read the newspapers yesterday because our office canteen had sold every copy before I arrived. I managed to scan through some headlines on the Internet and all I saw were natural disasters.

Last night, CH texted to ask if I felt any tremours. Apparently he could feel the effects of a huge earthquake in Sumatra while sitting at the balcony. Naturally the earthquake is on the front page in today's papers.

First, there was the freak sandstorm that descended upon the beautiful city of Sydney. Then Manila was innundated with the worst flood in decades. After that, Samoa was hit by a massive tsunami. And Typhoon Ketsana left a trail of destruction across Vietnam and Cambodia.

I emailed my client in Ho Chi Minh to ask if everyone's ok. Thankfully, the areas that they are in have been spared. I heaved a sigh of relief. My colleague who's in charge of collectibles voiced her relief, "Luckily! Or else I think we can forget about getting paid!"

She's being practical of course.

Reading about these natural disasters is very sobering. We often take what we have for granted but imagine the sorry state the affected areas are in now. They're out of food and homes, and they're struggling to survive. When disaster strikes, the rich and the poor are all in the same boat.

Working with leftovers

I cooked too much last night and ended up with lots of leftovers today. Guess what I did with the chicken casserole? I converted it into a fish casserole!

I sauteed some fresh button mushroom in garlic and olive oil which I then poured into the casserole dish. Afterwhich I added the cooked dory slices from last night's dinner, some sliced potatoes and topped with the leftover casserole. The dish was covered with aluminium foil before being sent into the oven for an hour.

The fish became more delicious after soaking in the juice from the fresh mushroom, everyone has fallen in love with casserole now.

We had so much leftover cabbage too, I simply added more fresh cabbage and sweetcorn (fresh from the cob) to jazz up the dish. Indeed, the crunchy and juicy corn made the dish extra delicious!

The only new dish was ngoh hiang (meat rolls) made using minced pork, shrimps, chopped water chestnut, onion and shallots. It was so well received that Rusty didn't get to eat any.

Thank goodness we have no leftover food tonight. I don't really like working with leftovers.

Family portrait

So, this is a family portrait without the kids.

Just Rusty and me.

Photos were taken by SK.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

East or West?

I used to wonder why some friends of mine move about so much but now I'm beginning to see why. A year ago, I moved out of my parent's house in the West to an apartment in the East.

I fell in love with the patio garden and made an offer immediately. The fact that it was perched on a hilltop added to the charm. It didn't occur to me that the train station and bus-stops are quite a distance away.

At that time, CH was living nearby. I thought it was nice to be in the same neighbourhood so he could come for dinner or go running with me. It was great for several months, until he relocated.

Of course, it helped that YK's school was merely 5km away then. Now he has to travel all the way to the West everyday. After a long train journey, he has to tackle the uphill climb to get home. When he's running late, he takes a cab.

I should have been more far-sighted for I'm beginning to have second thoughts now. Perhaps I should look for a place in the west, one that is nearer to the kids' schools, universities and my parent's home? It should be easily accessible, yet secluded enough to offer enough privacy. I would like a bright house with bigger rooms and a decent garden.

Oh, but it sounds so out of reach already. I don't think this is happening anytime soon but at least I can dream about it.

Chicken casserole

The nearest wet market is closed for renovations during the next three weeks. For the time being, I'll be relying on the supermarket for fresh food. I don't think their seafood and vegetables are quite as fresh, so I have been stocking up my fridge with frozen food like chicken, cod and dory.

As a result, tonight's dinner is slightly different. After the dory fillets have been thawed, I seasoned them with garlic pepper before pan-frying in olive oil and butter. When they've become nicely browned and fragrant, I squeezed some lemon juice over the succulent pieces.

Instead of leafy greens, I've bought cabbage, french beans, potatoes, turnip and other vegetables that do not perish quickly. Tonight, I made a simple vegetable dish using cabbage, beans and canned sweetcorn.

Since I was home early, I had more than enough time to make chicken casserole. I browned two pieces of chicken fillets in a pan. Then I added sliced onion, celery and potatoes and cooked for about ten minutes. I carefully layered the casserole dish with the cooked ingredients before topping off with sliced button mushrooms and canned mushroom soup.

I covered the dish with a piece of aluminium foil and placed it into the oven for an hour. It may be my first attempt but the dish turned out lovely!

And here is SK's plate piled with so much food, the rice is not even visible!

YK's marine tank

I got home early today after another delivery run. Since nobody was home, I decided to park myself in the living room instead of retreating to my bedroom as usual. It was quiet save for the sound of water from YK's marine tank.

From where I was sitting, I suddenly realised how gorgeous his tank is. For a while I was mersmerised by the sight of colourful fishes swimming about and coral tentacles waving in all directions.

Now I understand why YK is so enamoured with his tank, so much so that he intends to learn scuba diving so that he can explore a real marine reef some day.

In less than a year, he has become quite an expert as he reads extensively about marine life. Some friends think I'm too indulgent, saying this is an expensive hobby for a teenager. While I agree it's not cheap, YK uses his savings and allowance to fund his hobby.

Well, insteading of spending frivolously on arcade games, clothes and food, he has aquired lots of knowledge and met many other reefers on the forum. Besides, the tank keeps him busy and teaches him discipline. I think it's a pretty decent hobby afterall.

Front view. My digital camera doesn't do enough justice to the beauty of the tank.

Side view.

Monday, 28 September 2009


I delivered some gardening kits to a playschool in the city this morning. Standing at the school gate amongst happy kids of all nationalities brought back memories of the days when I sent my kids to playschool. How I miss the chatter and cheekiness of the little ones!

The teachers gathered around excitedly when they saw me. I have a soft spot for this school even though the order is a small one. Unlike the other schools, the teachers here are paying out of their own pockets to give the kids a fun experience in growing vegetables. How noble is that?

They showed genuine interest and listened attentively when I was dishing out some practical advice on vegetable growing. As I witnessed groups of little kids entering the school gate with big smiley faces, I knew I would be happy to send my little ones there if I had any.

It makes me proud that I've gone into a business that will enrich the lives of children in some way. Not in a big way, but at least I hope it encourages them to respect and appreciate mother nature.

When it comes to business, I've always maintained a policy that it mustn't involve keeping livestock (like rearing, breeding or trading of live animals in case they die under my care), killing of animals for food or anything that endangers the lives of animals or people, regardless of how profitable it is.

There are many other avenues to make money. If you can find one that helps to enrich the life of people, the reward is priceless. Like seeing the joy on a kid's face.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

A day in the life of Blur Ting

I'm beginning to feel more and more like a blue collar worker. I spent the whole Saturday packing soil and I was loading big carton boxes onto the delivery van last night. That's for the gardening business of course.

This morning, I was at a coffee roasting factory to view a shipping container that they wish to sell. After spending 10 minutes there, I walked out smelling like a giant coffee bean. The smell of coffee lingered in my hair and clothes for an hour or so. Even my car smells of coffee now.

Then I went to a huge expressway construction site along East Coast to view another container office. I drove along a long and dusty road, feeling so tiny amongst the huge trucks and cement mixers ferrying materials to the work site.

That's not the worst part. I arrived at the site office, parked my car and hopped on the foreman's truck. Then he drove through the bumpiest unpaved road filled with massive portholes to get to the container office.

I was lurching about in the truck, I almost threw up. When we arrived at the site, I had to wear a helmet like the worker below. Mine was a yellow one. The foreman was kind enough to select the cleanest one :-)

The weather today is hot! I felt so sorry for the people working under the blistering heat. I was there for barely 30 minutes and I could feel the strain. I was in my dress and espadrilles, and the workers feared that I would trip and fall as I went about surveying the container.

Maybe because my job has been getting more labourious, I have been desperately looking for feminine dresses and clothes when I'm out shopping. The clothes that I've recently acquired reek of feminity and my hair is getting way too long, it's becoming too impractical. I see this as a fear of losing my feminity. But still, the other part of me screams that I need a haircut. I think I'll go for a trim this evening.

Duck soup

I know Mum misses my cooking. I made her some chicken stew for dinner one evening I was there and she loved it so much, she wanted me to teach her maid how to cook it.

My cooking style is simple really. Using commonsense and experience, one can easily coax beautiful flavours out of fresh ingredients. When it comes to making soups, I like to brown onions and meat with a dash of olive oil until lightly caramalised before adding in stock or water. It definitely tastes better than dumping everything into a pot of water to boil.

Today, I suddenly developed a craving for a dish I grew up eating. For some reason, Chinese Teochews love eating duck. I miss my late-grandma's braised duck and I remember drinking duck soup on rainy nights.

The weather's probably too hot for one to think of the hearty kiam chye duck soup but I went to the supermarket anyway to get a fresh duck and kiam chye (salted vegetables). I couldn't find any in the poultry section but I was so determined to make the dish that I bought a frozen duck from Taiwan which costs twice as much.

After thawing out the duck (a huge one by the way), I chopped it into quarters before popping it into the oven for about 20 minutes. The heat helps to remove the layer of fat beneath the skin.

When the pot of water started to boil, I added the duck pieces, kiam chye, ginger, sour plums, fresh tomatoes, an onion and a clove of garlic. I left the pot of soup to simmer for two hours until the meat is tender. For seasoning, I added in a splash of chinese wine (some people use brandy), a small piece of rock sugar and some pepper.

It's still boiling on the stove and the house is filled with a lovely smell. I'm sure my mum and the rest of the family will love the dinner surprise.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

So unfair!

While best friend and I were packing soil in the hot and dusty shed, CH was out kayaking under the clear blue sky with his best friend! I could strangle him!

Well, I shouldn't be complaining because I was the one who told him to take the day off when he offered to help. It's not fair to make him do this mundane task every weekend right?

But please spare me your Kodak moments!

After a day of fun in the sun, he went out for dinner in Little India before catching a midnight movie with his best friend. By then, my best friend and I had crashed out after a day of toiling at the farm.

While I'll be catching up with housework today, guess what he'll be up to? Archery sessions under the sun. Uggh!!

Saturday madness

Now that we're more adept at packing the gardening kits, we finished the job in double quick time today. Of course it helped that EE stopped by to lend a hand. Her mum chipped in too. It was good fun. Thanks EE!

Once the kits are delivered next week, I can take a breather and claim back my Saturdays again. I didn't even find time to read the papers today, which is a rarity.

Something funny happened tonight. The kids and I were looking forward to a hearty dinner at my parent's home as usual but when we got there, they had already finished eating. Apparently mum wasn't expecting us for dinner, so she didn't prepare our meals. I must have told her more than once that we were coming.

This is not the first time it has happened. Mum's already deaf in one ear and I fear her hearing in the good ear is deteriorating. I do feel sorry for her.

The kids were starving, so we ended up buying food from the food court nearby. The day is already coming to an end, I look forward to a more relaxing Sunday.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Newbies and oldies

A customer from Bombay has been keeping me very busy lately. K and her colleagues have left their employer and banded together to start up a new company. I can see how they're just bursting with enthusiasm. I receive enquiries from their local office during the day and a flurry of phone calls, text messages and emails in the night, even when I'm falling asleep.

I'm not complaining of course. Any enquiry during this downturn is a positive sign. The customer knows they're king, so they drive a good bargain. Sometimes I relent so that I could close the deal and go to bed.

Seeing a group of driven entrepreneurs hard at work is very inspiring. No matter which country they're from, most entrepreneurs are just as self driven and courageous.

My good friend had recently left a huge corporation to strike out on her own. Yesterday she disclosed that she's been doing very well. While the big corporations are financially strong, they often move like an 800-pound gorilla. When it comes to negotiating a deal, you often have to be nimble to clinch the contract. More often than not, big companies are bogged down by office politics and red tape that they lose out to entrepreneurs like my friend. She's loving her new life outside the corporate jungle.

Another business associate I was chatting with today sounded a little disenchanted. I could see why. His wife and kids have already migrated to Australia while he had chosen to stay behind in Malaysia to tend to his business. Today, he's back at work after spending a month with the family in the beautiful Melbourne suburbs fishing in the creek, driving to the countryside, seeking new business opportunities and generally, having a good time.

He revealed that he has grown accustomed to the Australian lifestyle, he finds it a pain to be back in the humid and dusty homeland. He had left his heart in his new Australian home where his family now resides.

He is in a dilemma of course. His business is here but his family is over there. The business suffers when he's not around. That poor man will have to choose.

Unlike the newly minted entrepreneurs, this industry veteran has been in the same business for the longest time. He's feeling a little jaded and homesick. I'm sure he'll find the answer soon.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Small world

EE treated me to Japanese lunch this afternoon. She had been traveling, so it was great to catch up with her before she jets off again. As usual, we spent hours chatting and laughing. That was when we realised how small the world is.

First of all, I thought I spotted an old admirer in the mall. Even though I went through great lengths to avoid him, I ended up sitting behind him in the same restaurant. Halfway through lunch, EE's brother suddenly appeared before us. He was eating at Subway when he spotted us in the restaurant.

While chatting with EE, I found out that her daughter's (EH, my god-daughter) in the preschool that ordered our gardening kit for Children's Day next week. As it turns out, the school principal Melissa is a friend of EE's cousin. Melissa is now my customer and EH will be growing vegetables next week!

Talking about vegetables, I cooked my kai lan (kale) for dinner tonight. I had harvested them a little too late, so the stems were too fibrous and chewy.

There wasn't enough kale to feed the family, so I stir-fried some sprouts (dou miao) as well.

For protein, I seasoned salmon with salt, pepper and olive oil before chucking it into the oven for some 30 minutes.

I also made a seafood Cioppino using fresh mussells and shrimps cooked in spicy tomato stock. It looks messy but tastes delicious!

Finally, I made YK's favourite tofu drenched in sesame oil, soy sauce and oyster sauce and topped with chopped shallots and lightly fried anchovies.

It was a simple but satisfying dinner!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Old times' sake

Out of a sudden, CH started reminiscing about the food at Purvis Street. When his office was in one of those beautifully conserved shophouses several years ago, we used to meet at the Kopitiam for breakfast especially on rainy mornings.

Well, we decided to revisit the cafe today for old times' sake. The street was quieter than usual when we arrived at 7.15am, largely due to some road closures for the F1 race this weekend. Other than some newly sprouted cafes, everything else looked pretty much the same.

The thick and rich coffee at Killiney still tastes as aromatic and satisfying as before. My favourite yam cake didn't disappoint either. We ate and read the papers like everyone else. The freak dust storm in Australia kept me so engrossed that when I lifted my head, the sky outside had suddenly turned dark and threatening, as if I was caught in the Sydney storm. Then it started to rain.

That's how unpredictable our tropical weather is. Of course I also read that Lewis Hamilton and the other drivers will be checking out the F1 track today. I hope the rain doesn't hamper their plans.

On the way to the car, we stopped by Garibaldi Restaurant to check out the menu. This highly acclaimed restaurant has always been here yet we had never made any attempt to try their award winning Italian dishes. CH suggested we should eat there one day. Perhaps we should, when he starts reminiscing about the food on Purvis Street again.

When we left the city, the roads were wet and strewn with fallen leaves. It brought back memories of our breakfasts together. Just like old times.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Bleary eyed

I went back to the farm yesterday afternoon to tape another 20 carton boxes so that we can dive straight into packing this Saturday. We should be able to finish packing another 700 kits, albeit faster this time.

Man, I feel so tired today. My eyes can barely stay open as I sit here at my desk. It's only 10am and I'm tempted to have another cup of coffee to keep myself awake.

YK received his final results this morning. He's happy and has gone out to celebrate with his friends. They have been treating the first semester like a honeymoon, and I'm sure he can do better if he gets his act together. I had warned him that the next semester will only get tougher.

I've been meaning to bring him on a mini-vacation before his new term starts in October. "Who's going to take care of my marine tank and Rusty?"

"The corals and fishes can go without food for a week. Rusty can go live in the boarding house." I replied.

After contemplating, he's willing to forgo the vacation unless I'm insistent on going that is. Well, a beach holiday would be nice but I guess we'll just wait a little longer. Who knows how long I can wait? I'm sure he wouldn't mind if I leave him behind with the pets.

Monday, 21 September 2009


My fingers are stiff and achy from taping carton boxes yesterday. Who would imagine securing carton boxes with sticky tape could be so strenuous? Maybe it's just age catching up on me or could the process of lugging carton boxes around be taking a toll on my body?

I'm not complaining because I love doing physical work like this every now and then. For once, we didn't have to use our brains very much. We were joking that we could become quite retarded if it becomes a full time job. Last night, CH even found the entire exercise 'oddly fun'. I guess if I make him help out every weekend, it wouldn't be fun anymore!

We're already half way through with the packing. One more session this weekend, and we're ready to get the delivery guys in. In fact, we're very encouraged by the good response from the schools in Singapore.

Looking back, it took us months of research and brainstorming to get the product ready. It helps that my parents are so supportive and liberal in letting us use the facilities and resources anytime we like. We've practically invaded every area we possibly could, from the farm to the store, warehouse and even the kitchen.

We don't have many photos of us at work but here, you can see best friend blending soil in a big tub according to our 'secret' recipe. It's a very tiring job but she's a strong and fit girl.

As usual, cute Cookie was amused with the sudden flurry of activity around him. He must have been annoyed that his peace was interrupted all day.

Our tenant's tiny chihuahua kept running over to sniff at our feet, wondering what the fuss was all about.

Oh well, the dogs can sleep soundly again today. They had better enjoy the peace because we'll be back on Saturday to complete the packing. And then, we can sit back and hear the cash register go kaching!

Our little sideline

After a long hard day of work at the farm, I am finally winding down with a cold refreshing glass of Choya honey plum wine.

Best friend, CH and I spent all day assembling gardening kits for pre-schools. It's back-breaking work but we enjoyed the process thoroughly. I managed to lose some weight and tone some muscles in the last two weeks!

The company is still in its infancy stage, so we're doing everything ourselves. From sifting soil to pasting labels and packing carton boxes, we've done it all. Fortunately it's a public holiday or else it wouldn't make economic sense for us to apply annual leave to pack gardening soil from dawn to dusk. I guess we just have to start somewhere. We constantly remind ourselves Bill Gates started his business in the backyard too.

Midway through our packing, I received a message from my reader Petunia asking if I was alright. I haven't been updating my blog and didn't think anyone would notice my absence. I must apologise for making anyone worried. Don't worry, I'm alive and kicking! It's not that easy to get rid of me you know!

I'm bushed after all the physical work, and I'm sure the other guys must be worn out too. If this business proves to be successful, I have many people to thank especially CH who has been so supportive all along. He could have spent the holiday doing something more interesting than packing soil, yet he toiled quietly without a sigh. I'm a really lucky girl!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Gift from my nieces

I received an adorable gift from my niece yesterday. She presented me with a lovely watering can and a hand-made card. She's barely four, yet she's able to draw a picture of us in a garden.

Her little 2-year-old sister drew a face too. I wonder if the big head affixed to the teeny weeny body is a caricature of me?!

It's always so wonderful to see my nieces. They're truly happy when I visit and would always plead with me to stay with them all day.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


Not too long ago, I started a blog about business and I've decided to reproduce some of the posts here for anyone who's interested to become an entrepreneur one day.

As a business owner, I know lots of other entrepreneurs like me. Many of them are very close business associates. As I mingle with them over the years, I find that most of us speak the same lingo even though we're all from different parts of the world.

So, there seem to be some common traits of entrepreneurs. Maybe some are born this way, whereas other simply evolve over time. Some obvious characteristics include:

1. We work harder than anyone else. We are exchanging emails or talking over the phone at all hours of the day, and we never complain about the long hours that we put in. Well, it's our business afterall.

2. We are willing to fly across time zones to meet customers or suppliers if we have to. We do it because we know it makes a difference to our business. We do so willingly.

3. We don't like to haggle over small things and we believe in sharing ideas and leads. To have a small percentage of a big pie is much better than having an entire small pie to yourself.

4. We have the vision to see what is possible. We think of all ways to overcome roadblocks to turn our vision into reality.

5. We are passionate, not only about the business but other things in general. Some of my business friends are passionate about golf or sailing.

6. We are not smarter than anyone else. In fact, most of us did not excel in school. We're probably more opportunistic and willing to take action. In other words...have control over our lives.

7. We don't give up easily. I have known many successful entrepreneurs who fall, pick themselves up quickly and start over again. We have the never-say-die attitude.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The big idea

My gardening business is up and running, the container business is already 7 years old and I'm already starting another new project. My mind is always churning out new ideas and in my state of excitement, nothing seems impossible! If I'm beginning to look like a jack of all trades, I can't help it. It's just the entrepreneur in me.

I must admit some of the stupidest ideas had crossed my mind but hey, weird ideas may work sometimes. While alot of impractical ideas have ended up in the bin, I'm still not discouraged.

Reading the success stories in today's special supplement on "The Entrepreneur of the Year 2009 - A Rotary-ASME Award" only inspires me to work harder. The top entrepreneurs represent diverse industries like healthcare, F&B, construction, retail and logistics etc.

If they can be successful, I don't see why other people cannot make it. What these winners have is the drive, passion and willingness to work harder than everyone else.

I know that as long as I don't stop thinking and dreaming, I will hit the big idea one day.

Happy birthday

Thank you, everyone, for the birthday wishes! My lovely reader, Huier, sent me a gardening journal and lovely card. That's such a great gift. Thanks so much!

The day went by without any fanfare. In fact, it was a rather humdrum kind of day. Sometimes birthdays mess up a person's mind. We're conditioned to expect it to be extra special and exciting.

While I always attempt to make birthdays special for my kids and loved ones, I was disappointed that none of them put in any effort today. I wasn't expecting a party or anything, but still...

I guess boys are just not into such things. After a long day at work, I wasn't planning on slogging in the kitchen on my birthday, so I suggested going out for dinner. Imagine, I have to give myself a treat on my birthday! Sad.

YK must have felt sorry for me because he went to the florist and bought me a bouquet of lilies after dinner. That finally brightened up my day. Well, happy birthday to me.

Monday, 14 September 2009

One year already?

While walking Rusty after dinner, it suddenly dawned on me that I've been doing this same routine for one year. In a nutshell, I've been cooking, cleaning, working and walking Rusty for a year now. It wasn't that hard, was it?

Looking back, the months leading to the move were the most stressful. I had mixed feelings about leaving my parents. Then there was the mortgage to deal with, plus the furnishing, painting and flooring. We were heartbroken to leave Rusty behind because we were afraid he couldn't cope with apartment living. And he got into a bad fight which made us change our mind.

Everyone, including Rusty, is happily settled now. The boys have their own space, so there is nothing to squabble about. We have cable TV and reliable internet connection now, so the kids have no reason to be bored. Everywhere is within easy accessibility, they no longer rely on me to drive them around.

How quickly we've all adapted. All the homesickness that used to plague me is gone. Instead of missing my parents, I look forward to our weekly gatherings at their home.

I've almost forgotten what life at the farm was like. Geez, I'm still amazed at how quickly time flies.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

SK's birthday

My little boy turns 15 today. His birthday is just a day ahead of mine, maybe that explains why he is like me in so many ways. He's down-to-earth, independent and very sensible. He loves the outdoors and takes good care of his body.

He may be big and strong, but to me, he's still my little boy. The one with the softest brown hair and shy smile. And the one who rarely demands anything from me. All the more reason why I should give him a special birthday treat.

We can't do much on a school day, so we went for dim sum lunch yesterday. Then at night, we celebrated his birthday with a gorgeous Blackforest cake at my parent's home.

At this age, I've stopped fussing over my own birthday but good old C.H. bought me a delicious mango cake.

We had plenty of cake to eat last night. Rusty's birthday falls in the month of September too, so he helped to blow the candle and eat my cake.

I received a digital photo frame from C.H who had thoughtfully preloaded photos of me and my loved ones he had captured on his camera over the years. That was very sweet of him.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Woman juggler

Yesterday turned out to be less 'chilly' than I had expected. Though I didn't go to the office, I was busy doing things all day. While I was thinking of what to cook for dinner, best friend called to invite us over for a BBQ.

"Great! Then I don't have to make dinner!" I replied.

I brought the seasoned chicken wings and sambal squid (perfect for grilling) that I had planned to cook for dinner to the party.

We arrived to find the coals already burning on the pit. Best friend was on the phone with her colleagues, discussing about work. Her hubby was on the way home from work.

While her mom-in-law was busy cooking noodles in the kitchen, I started grilling some food. Soon everyone gathered around the table to enjoy food, wine and beer.

Best friend was nowhere in sight. That poor girl was stuck in a conference call only to surface later for a quick bite before slinking off to the study for another scheduled conference call with the USA office.

I didn't see her for the rest of the night. When we left the house, she was still stuck in the 'virtual meeting'. Tonight, she's flying off to New York for a meeting. Then she'll rush back to Singapore to help me in our little sideline. We have a large order to fulfill this month.

She's a woman juggler. When I see her juggling a successful career, family life and personal interests so well, it makes me admire her so much. She takes everything in her stride, I've not heard her complain or whine, ever.

She makes sure everyone is taken care of. She plans parties and activities for the kids so they don't feel neglected during the holidays. She brings her parents and family on annual vacation so everyone can have a good time together. She goes on regular runs and hikes with her husband so they can have some personal time alone. And she plans gatherings and meals with me so we can stay in touch.

As a friend, I'm filled with awe whenever I look at her, I can imagine how proud her husband feels. While he often teases her about her 'little gardening business', he lavishes heaps of support and love unto her.

Well, she deserves every bit of it because what goes around comes around.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009


It's the fourth day of the school holiday and I haven't done a thing for the kids. Maybe I'll stay away from the office today and bring them somewhere.

When they were younger, the planning starts way before the school holidays. Where to bring them? What to do? When to apply leave?

Now that they're older and independent, I have forgotten how to have fun. Even planning a holiday seems so difficult. They have their own schedules and opinions, I can no longer drag them anywhere I fancy. Now, they even find my choice of holiday destinations too exotic.

In some ways, my own plans are on hold too. I guess we're at that stage where they're still boys, not quite grown up yet, hence still dependent on me in many ways.

I know what we'll end up doing on my off day. You will see us at the fish farm! Hiaz.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Acting up again

Ugh! My blogger is acting up again. Despite buying loads of storage space, I am back to square one. I can't upload photos on my blog again. Just when I'm about to start a new travel series on Eastern Europe, this has to happen.


It's 09-09-09 today and my clock is showing 8.08.08am as I start blogging. Cool isn't it?

It can't get any more auspicious as that. Looks like it's going to be a nice day. I'm heading out to deliver some gardening kits to a pre-school, then I'm going to swing over the farm to do some physical work. And then it's back to the office to do my real work. It's a day of multi-tasking. As if this is not enough, a new idea has been buzzing in my head and I can't wait to get that started too.

It may sound like I've got alot on my plate but after chatting with the owner of Joan Bowen, I find her such a master of multi-tasking, it makes me look like a novice. She has so much passion in her work. I just wonder where she finds all that time and energy to do so many different things.

I guess there is something in us...we just can't stop doing things, it's almost an obsession. But it keeps us happy.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Forgotten vacation

It has been an uninspiring day at work. I feel restless and bored.

When that happens, I check out interesting holiday destinations. After catching the "Palace on Wheels" show on Discovery Travel last night, I spent the entire morning thinking about it.

Nine years ago, I had already started dreaming of boarding the luxury train that takes one on a journey through the bygone era of the erstwhile Maharajas.

I had longed to see the majestic Taj Mahal in Agra and The Pink City in Jaipur. Then I must have gotten sidetracked along the way for 9 years have passed and I have not set foot in India.

Today I see the beautiful sights dancing before my eyes, beckoning me once again. I want to be there, taking in the splendours of Rajasthan.

The Royal Rajastan on Wheels will take me through the princely states of Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Sawai Madhopur, Chittorgarh, Udaipur and Bharatpu, an expedition that promises to take me back into history.

Yah, I cannot wait for it to become a reality. I must make it a reality.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Curry overdose

I divided my huge wok of curry into 2 big pots - One went to the party and the other stayed at home. The kids had curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner yesterday.

I was already feeling quite horrible about their lack of variety when SK messaged me at 8pm. "Can you bring back some party food cos we're hungry?"

Well, the only party food we had last night was curry! It would be so mean if I make the kids eat curry for supper too!!

On the way home, I stopped by Bedok South Food Centre and bought them hokkien mee. The stall had ran out of squid (an essential ingredient for making the dish) but I mumbled, "That's fine. At least, better than eating curry."

Naturally the boys were pleased with what I brought home. They had finished the entire pot of curry and fed Rusty the last bit of roast chicken that I made the day before.

Even CH is not spared. He had leftover curry for breakfast today. I hope that's the last bit or else, he may end up eating curry for lunch and dinner too.

Good times

"What kind of pool party is this when you girls come without your swimsuit?" the guys teased.

I'm not quite a water babe unless it's really sunny. Yesterday's cool weather gave us an excuse not to get wet, so we were happy to chat by the pool.

"I want to be a mudskipper when I grow up."

The guys frolicked in the water and emerged shivering. That was the signal for a nice hot meal in the kitchen. The pot of curry went back on the stove and baguettes were shoved into the oven until they were warm and crusty.

The table was set. EY poured champagne and we drank a toast to friendship and more good times ahead.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Another cookout

We're having a small pool party at CH's house today. That means we need some food! When I heard our Korean friend EY reminiscing about curry chicken the last time she was in Singapore, I knew I had to make curry for her!

I combined two different kinds of pastes in a wok to make a really thick aromatic rempah before adding in the chicken pieces (smeared with curry paste), lemon grass and potatoes.

After dry frying the ingredients for some 15 minutes, I added in water, followed by coconut milk.

After bubbling for some 30 minutes, I was happy to see a layer of red chilli oil floating on top of the curry. That means the fragrant pot of curry is ready. I separated the curry into two pots - one for the kids and the other for the party.

I wanted a sweet and refreshing dessert to wash the spiciness down, so the simplest dessert to make is cheng tng. Simply throw barley, green bean, white fungus, red dates, ginkgo nuts, dried longan and lots of pandan leaves into a big pot of water and boil.

The pot is now sitting in the fridge. By the time the pool party starts, it will be nice and cold.

Afternoon with Fry

Fry came by for lunch today. She requested for roast chicken, so I marinated two fresh chickens with rosemary and seasoning a day earlier so the flavour is infused into the meat.

This morning, I roasted the chickens in the oven on low heat for four hours so the meat turn out tender and juicy. The pasta vongole, on the otherhand, didn't quite meet my expectations. Thank goodness the chicks saved the day.

I must thank Rusty for providing entertainment all afternoon. Fry loves him to bits and couldn't keep her hands off him. After lunch, we sat in the patio drinking beer and eating nuts. Of course I made Rusty show off his peanut peeling skills.

He's really good at shelling peanuts. Using his paws and jaws, he can easily break open the shell and eat up the crunchy nuts inside.

All the attention lavished on him made him drowsy, he didn't even bother when we started playing with his toy.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Bullying in school

While I was at my parent's place this morning, I waited anxiously for my niece to return home so I could see her before I leave. The school bus pulled up at the garage just after 12pm and Ting stepped off, with tears in her eyes. A school mate had pinched her in the bus.

Being the gentle girl that she is, she felt so defenceless and miserable. I bundled her into my arms and then she started sobbing. Poor Ting. I did my best to console her and told her not to sit too close to the bully in future. After hearing that the bully will be punished, she cheered up and even smiled for the camera.

Now that my kids are older, I have forgotten how bullying can be so prevalent in schools. Looking at my niece brought back memories of how my kids used to return home with bite marks or scratches from skirmishes in school. Once YK got so fedup of being bullied in kindergarten, he bit back and the boy's father came looking for me.

Another time, I had to bring SK to the A&E after a classmate accidentally stabbed a mechanical pencil at his eyebrow. Until today, there is still a small scar on SK's brow to remind me of the incident.

Well, this is part and parcel of growing up. Unless the bullying is persistent, kids will learn to cope and sort such things out. Still, it is the parents' duty to keep their eyes open and intervene before the bullying spirals out of control. Who says being a parent is easy.

We can't choose our parents

You can choose your friends and partners but one thing you can't choose is your parents. I'm blessed with the best parents in the world. They provide support in the background without interfering with my life in any way. Sometimes I take this for granted.

My kids are lucky that I'm pretty much like my parents. In fact, my friends are often surprised at how my kids would come up and confess voluntarily for misdeeds they have done. It is no surprise that some of their friends wish I could adopt them as god-children!

I am a strong believer in harmony within the family. If everyone in the home cannot get along with each other, everything is thrown out of balance. Imagine the world outside is already a rough and competitive place, the last thing we need is more stress at home.

Unfortunately, as the Chinese proverb goes "jia jia you ben nan nian de jing" which means "every household has a mantra that is challenging to recite", we can't expect harmony in every home.

A dear friend of mine is under alot of pressure because of a demanding mother. I've met her mum many times and found her to be a nice lady but when it comes to human relationship, we often see personality clashes. My friend is already facing a lot of challenges at work. Instead of providing support and encouragement, her mum shoots her down with criticisms and unreasonal demands.

In my opinion, she's very lucky that her daughter is very filial and accommodating. My friend is the kind who goes to great lenghts to please her mum and give her a cushy life after her dad passed away. Yet the emotional blackmail that she is often threatened with makes her guilt ridden and miserable all the time. It's a really distressing situation yet as an outsider, I can only watch helplessly.

In her case, her mum is taking her for granted. As a parent, you can tell your child off but as a child, especially a filial one, what do you say to your parent?

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Small is beautiful

While living with my parents, I noticed my dad buys enough groceries every week to feed an army. I became so used to opening a huge jar of peanut butter or rummaging through three refrigerators well stocked with food. It's like a mini-supermarket, we never run out of fruits and vegetables.

When we moved out one year ago, I stocked up our pantry with essential items. This morning, I threw out a jar of half-finished peanut butter, Nutella and some jams. Though they have not expired, they are no longer fresh after lying around for a year. We've not been eating fast enough.

The half-eaten box of cornflakes and Koko Crunch got tossed into the bin. We've only used half a box of pancake mix, so that will have to go too. I made SK drink the last sachet of Milo this morning. I can't imagine it took us one whole year to finish 12 sachets.

If I dig deeper into the cabinet, I'll be able to find dried mushrooms, different kinds of flour, sauces and canned food that had sat in the dark for far too long.

For some reason, having a small kitchen that is tucked away in one corner of the house (compared to my parent's large open-concept kitchen) discourages eating. I don't find the boys rummaging through the fridge for things to eat. It takes us ages to finish a loaf of bread or a block of cheese. A small bunch of bananas may sit there for days until they turn black.

Nowadays I've learned to buy jams and peanut butter that come in tiny sizes. The entrepreneur in me is already thinking of setting up a shop that sells everything in small packages to cater for people like us.

More people are living alone and families are getting smaller. We have more choices and are eating less of everything, I believe this will help to reduce wastage. I don't want to end up eating blackened bananas or peanut butter that has gone rancid.

My friend in UK was telling me about his aged father who lives alone in the countryside. His early morning ritual is to walk to the neighbourhood grocer to buy one potato, a tomato or whatever he fancies. The grocer frowns and says he only sells by the pound but the old guy doesn't give a hoot. He just pays and go. Well, he has lived there all his life, so they oblige. But really, what's he going to do with a whole bag of tomatoes?

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


While sifting through my name cards today, I found an old reservation card for dinner at Trattorie 4 Leoni. I was indeed fortunate to eat at a restaurant which requires a booking way way in advance. Thanks to Francesco who pulled some strings, we found ourselves seated at a table in this old restaurant (founded in 1550) hidden away in Piazza della Passera (passera is the Florentine expression for pussy), a part of the old Florence that you can't find on the maps.

Only the true Florentines know this crossroads that is situated between via dello Sprone, via de' Vellutini, via de' Sapiti and via Toscanella, where many years ago there was a brothel that contributed to the name of the square.

With such a rich heritage, it is no wonder our friend raved about it for days prior to the visit. The first thing that strikes you are the walls, fully adorned with photographs of famous celebrities and sports personalities who had dined there. To be seated there amongst the stars is considered an honour, to dine there is heavenly bliss.

It has such an extensive menu, ordering presented a challenge. I settled for the highly acclaimed Pappa al pomodoro. The restaurant is mostly renowned for its steaks, each averaging a whopping 800g!

Of course I'm kicking myself now because I failed to take any photos of the restaurant and the food. I did, however, take a photo of the beautiful sunset over the Arno River enroute to the restaurant.

We lingered by the bridge, enchanted by the gorgeous scenery until Cesco made us run to the restaurant before they cancelled our reservation.

If you appreciate art, history and food, you will love Florence. The museums, palaces, and churches there house some of the greatest artistic treasures in the world which explains why it is always crowded with tourists. You would need to spend days to see everything because there is always a line to get into the museums. It's like waiting in line for the rides in Disneyland!

For those who are in a hurry, there is art in every street, vicolo (alley) and piazza. Florence is like an outdoor museum. The architecture is Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance; and there are statues and works of Michelangelo, Botticelli and a magnitude of artistic works in every corner. At the pinnacle of the city is the impressive 13th Century Duomo, Bapistry and Belltower and the Santa Croce Church.

I spent an entire day wandering through some of the oldest streets in the city until I reached the Arno River, crossed the Ponte Vecchio and experienced the "newest" area of Florence, the Oltrarno.

While I like Florence, I dislike jostling with the crowd during the day. From here, you can travel to the enchanting countryside in less than an hour. I was so tempted to go to Sienna in search of Frances Mayes Bramasole but I had to return to Lucca that night and head north to Trieste thereafter.

A parade was going on when I arrived.

The architecture in Florence can take one's breath away.

Even the street lamps are artistic.

Old world charm in the streets of Florence.

Hordes of tourists during summer.

A replica of Michelangelo's David flanked by Baccio Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus at Palazzo Vecchio.

The statue of David at 'Piazzale Michelangelo'.